Meet the Artist Who Inspired an Olsen Twins Museum

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An Olsen Twin Hiding Behind a Scarf. (Photo courtesy of Laura Collins)

Wow — the eye of the art world is certainly shifting: from $100 million art sales at Christie’s auction house to indie startup galleries, like a pop-culture “museum” that Brooklyn-based comedians Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen plan to open this spring. (I should preface by saying that both Harkins and Olen have gallery experience, having already opened a small venue in their Brooklyn apartment dedicated to American figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding).

To launch their latest crowd-funded Kickstarter museum “THNK1994,” the duo plan to rent a storefront to showcase works that evoke iconic tabloid images — the ones plastered on the covers of People and Us Weekly — rendering intimate, candid photographs of celebrities shopping, dining at Cipriani, or walking their dogs. And although Harkins and Olen have racked in 47 backers and more than $2,000 over the past couple of weeks, they still have a way to go with a pledged goal of $9,500.

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An Olsen Hiding Behind a Fendi Tote. (Photo courtesy of Laura Collins)

Of course, to launch a nearly $10K art project, the gallerists have to go big — and who better to debut than the Olsen twins? With the help of Chicago-based artist Laura Collins, the museum will exhibit a painted series titled The Olsen Twins Hiding From the Paparazzi. Yes, it’s exactly how it sounds. Collins, a seasoned painter who has exhibited at a number of galleries in Chicago and New York, produced a large body of work that revolves around paparazzi photos of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

Her paintings — much like TMZ pics — reveal moments of disturbance: the Olsen girls hiding behind their oversize Fendi totes or behind bug-eyed sunglasses. Collins finds these figures (and their situations) emblematic of stardom. She’s painted Amanda Bynes during a court hearing and is working on a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills collection.

Yahoo Style caught up with Laura Collins to discuss her Olsen obsession.

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An Olsen Hiding Behind a Fur Coat. (Photo courtesy of Laura Collins)

Yahoo Style: What inspired you to create a body of work around the Olsen twins?
Laura Collins:
They pop up in my work quite a bit. I am the same age as the twins, and their stardom has always been in my peripheral vision. I find their elusive nature to be fascinating and feel that it makes for an alluring subject.

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An Olsen Hiding Behind Her Right Hand. (Photo courtesy of Laura Collins)

Of all the photos out there, why repurpose paparazzi images?
As a painter, I am very interested in the abstraction that happens when the main subject of your work is covered. The act of masking a face is very disruptive visually and psychologically, pushing notions of secrecy and violation.

With titles including Fendi and Hermès, how important is fashion to your work?
Although fashion is a reoccurring theme in my work, I almost feel that its presence is a fluke. In reality, I am a complete novice when it comes to fashion. Titling my work is always a struggle. There are seemingly endless images of the Olsen twins hiding behind their accessories or models falling down, so referencing the designer is honestly just a way for me to create a more detailed inventory of my work.

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An Olsen Hiding Behind Her Hand. (Photo courtesy of Laura Collins)

You majored in women’s studies in college. How does that apply to your work?
I feel that women’s and gender studies have informed my recent art practice immensely. It is my hope that each of my paintings serves as an invitation to meditate on the absurdity of pageantry and to contemplate the implied scrutiny of the public gaze. I strive to humanize celebrity culture and create empathy through the exploitation of candid faltering. My work alludes to moments of personal discomfort and alienation, proposing them to be, in fact, universal.

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Lisa Vanderpump With Her Pet Swan. (Photo courtesy of Laura Collins)

Beyond the Olsens, I’m obsessed with your Lisa Vanderpump portrait. Can we expect a whole Housewives series?
You can absolutely expect a Housewives series. I find them fascinating and have a few images picked out already. I have other names on the docket as well. Basically I just love anytime a celebrity shows that they are in fact human.

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